For the fourth consecutive year, Creative Commons communities in the Arab world have self-organized and hosted CC Iftars to celebrate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in the spirit of sharing.
Back in 2010, CC Iftars were created as community-organized gatherings where CC members and people interested in the sharing culture would meet up to celebrate together the breaking of the fast, and share food and creative ideas. During the past four years, CC communities in Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Syria, Morocco, Iraq, Lebanon, Qatar, and Tunisia have actively contributed to the iftar project by hosting community events, screening movies, featuring talks, charity marathons, and remixing competitions.
This Ramadan 2013, CC Iftars where organized in Qatar, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. CC Iftar Doha kicked off in the Qatari capital on 23 July in a magnificent Ramadan tent at the St. Regis hotel. A very diverse community made up of technologists, graphic designers, entrepreneurs and photographers, who all share an interest in growing digital Arabic content, attended the gathering and donated the proceeds of the evening to the orphans in Qatar.
Despite the deteriorating security situation, the CC community in Iraq was able to celebrate CC Iftars for the second year. This time, the event was not only hosted in the capital Baghdad, but also in Kirkuk, Dhi Qar, Sulaymaniyah, and al-Diwaniyyah. The lively and brave group behind the Iraqi Network for Social Media – who are very active in organizing open-culture–related activities – has managed to put together around a hundred people in these five cities all across the country, and celebrate the spirit of sharing by screening movies and hosting a brainstorming session about new ideas and projects as well as a ceremony to remember Iraqi orphans. The events were simultaneously held on 27 July and they were attended by people with a wide range of professional backgrounds, spanning from bloggers and journalists to photographers and artists.
On 31 July, it was Lebanon’s turn to host its CC Iftar for the second time. The event was held in the brand new multi-purpose space of Alt City in Hamra district, Beirut. The community gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of CC Lebanon – which has been a formal affiliate since 2010 – and discuss new ideas to improve the culture of sharing in the country through artistic and creative projects.
Last but not least, CC Jordan, one of the oldest CC affiliates in the Arab region, celebrated on 6 August its second CC Iftar in Amman. The gathering was hosted in the beautiful location of Fann wa Chai in the historical district of Jabal Lweibdeh. Jordan Open Source Association, who has been an active promoter of CC and the sharing culture, was behind the organization of the CC Iftar which gathered open-source lovers, geeks, bloggers, and digital activists.
As in previous years, CC Iftars have proven to be a great opportunity to host community-driven discussions and feature new ideas and projects. They have also showed the enthusiasm and self-organization skills of CC Arab communities, even in such difficult times of political and social unrest.
This year, too, our thoughts go to Bassel Khartabil aka Bassel Safadi, CC Syria public lead, who has been detained without trial by Syrian authorities since 15 March 2012. Bassel was behind the idea of launching CC Iftars in the Arab world and he is greatly missed by his family, friends, and the entire CC community.
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If you subscribe to Creative Commons’ newsletter or follow us on Twitter and Facebook, you’re likely familiar with the story of Bassel Khartabil, our friend and longtime CC volunteer who’s been in prison in Syria since March 2012. Today, on the second birthday that Bassel has spent in prison, friends of Bassel and members of the open community are taking a moment to reflect on his situation and call for his release.
The Index on Censorship, which honored Bassel in March with the Digital Freedom Award, has compiled a collection of birthday wishes for Bassel:
I just want him free, I pray for him to be free and I pray for all his friends who believe and work on Bassel’s freedom. – Bassel’s mother
It is your birthday. It is not a day of happiness — yet. But when justice is done, and you are released from your wrongful imprisonment, all of us will celebrate with enormous happiness both this day, and every day that you have given us as an inspiration for hope across the world. – Larry Lessig, founder of Creative Commons
Our friend Jon Phillips, organizer of the #freebassel campaign, has launched a project called FREEBASSEL SUNLIGHT. In Jon’s words, “Please help shine some sunlight on Bassel by doing some novel research on his situation, where he is located, and help connect the dots of his situation and life.”
Artist and filmmaker Niki Korth recently developed a game that uses quotations from Bassel to start conversations about free and open communication, the conflict in Syria, and other topics. Niki has been publishing the playing cards online as well as videos of people playing the game.
Earlier this week, Niki led a few of us at CC in the game. You can watch our responses to several of her questions on her Vimeo page.
In this video, CC CEO Cathy Casserly voices our shared hope that we’ll see Bassel soon:
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In December, we blogged about a new initiative by journalists called Syria Deeply, a news platform aiming to redesign the user experience of the Syrian conflict through news aggregation, interactive tools, original reporting, and feature stories. To encourage sharing and viral distribution, Syria Deeply licensed everything on its site under Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY).
Now “I Am Syria,” a project to increase education about Syria in the classroom, is working with Syria Deeply and President-elect Steve Armstrong of the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) to build a lesson plan about the Syrian crisis. This lesson plan, along with other open educational resources for the classroom, is available at iamsyria.org under CC BY. It will be the first in a series of teaching materials on global events and humanitarian issues.
From the announcement,
Even the most off-the-shelf tech solutions can make a monumental impact in bringing more foreign policy education to our schools. Which is why we built our Creative Commons licensed open courseware on IamSyria.org as a portal to our teacher friendly lesson plan. You simply go to IamSyria.org to download a Teacher’s Guide, and you will have a full 40 minute lesson plan’s worth of Common Core friendly material to expand your student’s horizons about global affairs. Included on the website is an introductory background video for your students as well as supplemental materials for executing the lesson plan, including a PowerPoint with accompanying worksheet, a video on what other kids are doing, and a Presidential Cabinet exercise which has been focus-grouped and loved by students.
By CC licensing its resources, “I Am Syria” will encourage teachers everywhere to educate their students about events in Syria and why it impacts them. Teachers will also be able to adapt “I Am Syria” resources to their particular classroom needs, and even contribute to the resources’ improvement over time.No Comments »
Today in the Wall Street Journal, Creative Commons co-founder Lawrence Lessig has a thoughtful piece about Bassel Khartabil, the longtime CC volunteer who has been detained by Syrian authorities since March.
In late 2012, Foreign Policy named Mr. Khartabil one of this year’s top 100 thinkers. The magazine singled him out for “fostering an open-source community in a country long on the margins of the Internet’s youth culture.”
But Mr. Khartabil wasn’t able to accept that honor. He was arrested in March by Syrian authorities because of his work and has been held — at times in utter isolation — ever since. His family fears the very worst.
Mr. Khartabil isn’t a partisan, aligned with one Syrian faction against another. He represents a future, aligned against a totalitarian past. The Syrian government is fearful of the potential threat to the totalizing control that defines the modern Syrian state. The government thus wants to shut the free-software, free-culture movement down, in a way that only a totalitarian regime can.
Please join us in urging Syrian authorities to release Bassel. Sign the letter of support and follow the most recent updates at freebassel.org.
- Call for the Release of Bassel Khartabil
- Please help us Free Bassel, open source developer and CC volunteer
In January 2009, Al Jazeera launched a pioneering initiative: the first news repository licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license. At the time, restrictions imposed by the Israeli military in Gaza prevented international news outlets from reaching the Strip and reporting from within. Al Jazeera, which had the advantage of being the only news outlet with a correspondent on the ground, came up with a creative solution by making its exclusive footage available to be used, remixed, translated and re-broadcasted by everybody, including competitors.
Three years later, a similar situation is happening with Syria. Shortage of news is dramatic and reports from within the country are rare and often require that journalists’ lives are put at risk in order to gather information. This is why it is key to have initiatives such as Syria Deeply, a news aggregator launched two weeks ago by a team of journalists and technologists headed by seasoned reporter Lara Setrakian.
Syria Deeply is a news platform that aims to redesign the user experience of the Syria story, for greater understanding and engagement around a complex global issue. The platform is part news aggregator, part interactive backgrounder, part original reporting and feature stories. And the great news is that the content on the site is entirely CC BY–licensed, in order to encourage sharing and viral distribution.
This is a major step in crisis reporting and will allow a wider audience to become more aware of the dramatic situation in Syria, fostering a better understanding of a complex issue by adding context and historical information to the headlines.
“I believe technology is the key to getting more and better news to a broader audience,” says Setrakian. Open licensing can support this process and spread more and better understanding on Syria-related issues.No Comments »
On March 15, 2012, Bassel Khartabil was detained in a wave of arrests in the Mazzeh district of Damascus. Since then, his family has received no official explanation for his detention or information regarding his whereabouts. However, his family has recently learned from previous detainees at the security branch of Kafer Sousa, Damascus, that Bassel is being held at this location.
Bassel Khartabil, a Palestinian-born Syrian, 31, is a respected computer engineer specializing in open source software development, the type of contributions the Internet is built upon. He launched his career ten years ago in Syria, working as a technical director for a number of local companies on cultural projects like restoring Palmyra and Forward Syria Magazine.
Since his arrest, Bassel’s valuable volunteer work, both in Syria and around the world, has been stopped. His absence has been painful for the communities that depend on him. In addition, his family, and his fiancée whom he was due to marry this past April, have had their lives put on hold.
Bassel Khartabil has been unjustly detained for nearly four months without trial or any legal charges being brought against him. — freebassel.org
This is our statement of Support to Bassel, his family and friends.
Creative Commons supports efforts to obtain the release of Bassel Safadi, a valuable contributor to and leader in the technology community. Bassel’s expertise and focus across all aspects of his work has been in support of the development of publicly available, free, open source computer software code and technology. He pursues this not only through his valuable volunteer efforts in support of Creative Commons, but in all of his work in the technology field. Through his efforts, the quality and availability of freely available and open technology is improved and technology is advanced.